The meaning of de-hyphenation

A hyphenated foreign policy, not just in West Asia, had handicapped India’s ability to forge pragmatic ties that help our national interests. The Modi government is making an important break from the past.

Written by Ram Madhav | Published:July 11, 2017 12:02 am
india international relations, modi in israel, west asia, modi government, narendra modi, Benjamin Netanyahu, modi israel relations, UNGA, indian express news, india news, indian express opinion The request for a meeting at the UNGA came from the Israeli foreign office. Illustration by C R Sasikumar

“We have been waiting for you, Prime Minister!” When I heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel say this to our Prime Minister at Ben Gurion airport, a three-year-old meeting between the two at a New York hotel flashed across my mind.

It was September, 2014. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was making his maiden visit to the United Nations to address the General Assembly (UNGA). Elaborate arrangements were underway for the first ever visit of the prime minister that included a big community reception to be attended by 25,000 Indian Americans.

Several meetings at the sidelines with global leaders were also being planned. One of them was with Prime Minister Netanyahu. The request for a meeting at the UNGA came from the Israeli foreign office. But the difficulty was that, as per the schedule, our Prime Minister was to leave the US on the day of the arrival of the Israeli Prime Minister for the UNGA address. The only slot available for the meeting between the two leaders was a Sunday evening, three days before the UNGA address date of the Israeli Prime Minister.

We assumed that the meeting wouldn’t be feasible as Netanyahu could not come three days ahead of his UNGA address. Also, for a meeting in New York on a Sunday, he had to leave Israel on Saturday, which, for a practising Jew, is difficult. But, to our surprise, the Israeli side informed us that Prime Minister Netanyahu would be reaching New York for the meeting on Sunday.

Just as we were settling down with a sense of satisfaction over the keen interest of Netanyahu for a meeting with Modi, panic calls started coming in from Jerusalem, four days before Sunday. The Israeli foreign office was informed by someone in the MEA in Delhi that scheduling a meeting with Netanyahu for the Prime Minister, when President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine was not going to be available for a similar meeting, would be difficult. It would go against the well-established convention, the Israelis were told.

It was hyphenated diplomacy of the Indian foreign policy establishment in action. The time had come for a political call to be taken about this convention. None other than Modi, with his courage of conviction, could have taken that call.

As expected, the Prime Minister brushed aside the conservative view and decided to go ahead with the meeting. That was the first instance of de-hyphenation of our foreign policy. The “sky is the limit to India-Israel relations” statement recollected by Netanyahu at the Jerusalem airport was from that meeting.

Not just West Asia, there are several other instances where hyphenation has handicapped our ability to forge ties that help our national interests. De-hyphenation has helped us in formulating a more pragmatic foreign policy. Hyphenation, in most cases, is based on romantic ideological reasons. But foreign policy should be guided by pragmatic national and global interest only.

This is a big shift for an establishment that was trained in hyphenated diplomacy. One significant incident in the initial months of our government illustrates the hesitant transition of the establishment from hyphenation to de-hyphenation. Hamas and the Israeli Army were engaged in a serious battle during that time. Missiles were raining in from both sides. India was to issue a statement in the Security Council on the ongoing West Asia conflict. As was the practice, the statement drafted by our foreign office had routinely condemned Israel for using “disproportionately large” force against “minor provocation” by the Hamas. As is the wont, the statement had urged “both sides” to resolve the conflict “through dialogue”.

That Hamas had fired hundreds of rockets into Israel and that they couldn’t hit the targets only because of the high-end Israeli technology called the Iron Dome hardly mattered to those who drafted the statement. Also, the fact that in a war there won’t be anything called “proportionate force”, too, didn’t matter. What mattered was the convention that in matters of West Asia, the blame should always be on Israel. In our zeal to uphold that convention, we had even sought to advise Israel to do something that even we wouldn’t be doing ever: Dialogue with the terrorist outfit, Hamas. EAM Sushma Swaraj had to rise in Parliament to clarify that the government wouldn’t take sides in the conflict.

It was not the fault of the ministry staffers. It was the convention that had gone on for decades because of our romanticism in foreign policy. Someone had to bring in realism, which Modi did.

It doesn’t mean there is any shift in our West Asia policy. We are wedded to our support for the just cause of the Palestinian people and their government. We have supported Palestine in resolutions sponsored by them or other countries at the UN on many occasions in the last three years. That policy will continue.

To attribute our de-hyphenation to ideology and insinuate that it is anti-Muslim smacks of the communal mindset and lack of knowledge about foreign policy on part of the accusers themselves. In our pragmatic de-hyphenated foreign policy, we are friends with Iran and Saudi Arabia at the same time; US and Russia at the same time. China, Philippines, Japan, Vietnam — all of them may be friends or foes at various levels; but for us they are all our friends on a stand-alone basis.

“There are no permanent friends or foes in diplomacy; there are only permanent interests”, said Henry Kissinger.

The writer is national general secretary, BJP, and director, India Foundation

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  1. R
    Rahul
    Jul 12, 2017 at 3:56 am
    Ram Madav was given a choice to select between an Israeli and a brahmin. He happily opted for an Israeli. The purpose of selection is to rape his mother. You should have seen his face. He was jumping like a baby in joy!
    Reply
    1. S
      sahil
      Jul 12, 2017 at 2:20 am
      A jhandelwalan nobody is now commenting on guiding the foreign policy in the bharatiya reich, ache din definitively for the voters of fuhrer
      Reply
      1. M
        Murthy
        Jul 12, 2017 at 7:46 am
        Using German words proves nothing in the Indian context with a thriving Islamic population.... Use the Arabic words in your works to show how your fascism harnesses the Almighty to justify your evil deeds, past, present and likely future.. Non-Muslim Minorities disappear in Muslim majority countries and areas of any country.
        Reply
      2. R
        Rahul
        Jul 11, 2017 at 11:22 pm
        According to brahmins, Israelis have the best DIK. So they use every opportunity to ask them to s k r e w their women folks. Whether net or , you can see Brahmins so much in love for Israeli DIK. Ram Madav is no exception!
        Reply
        1. M
          Murthy
          Jul 12, 2017 at 7:57 am
          Sadly, your brain has the DIK...shifted right up.. Look what your Sthani Education System has done....
          Reply
        2. M
          Murthy
          Jul 11, 2017 at 11:19 pm
          RAM on Madav's Back. An a-h o l e article to project himself for which the political bstrds fleece money from hardworking people, diverts it to their party account, then use that for influencing all sitting inside an a.c room. FK OFF BUGGER!
          Reply
          1. M
            Murthy
            Jul 12, 2017 at 7:52 am
            Why do you use my User Name ? I have been blogging here for years. Readers know how I write. They can tell your "quality" of writing apart from mine. What influence can you have on any reader, through abuse and your sort of mean falsehood ? You are incapable of making any serious points, because most of your brain is stunted. Make sure you do not become a serious disappointment to yourself. Overhaul your brain before it is too late.
            Reply
          2. B
            blackpower
            Jul 11, 2017 at 8:03 pm
            Who is ram madhav? what is his claim to fame? he is famous for his totally uncalled for tweet - Ram Madhav’s criticism of Vice President Hamid Ansari’s absence at the Yoga day celebrations in New Delhi over which the Congress accused it of playing “divisive” politics. Union minister Shripad Naik cited protocol to say that the Vice President can’t be invited to an event where the Prime Minister is chief guest amid reports that the government is upset with the needless controversy triggered by Madhav’s tweets. “Unknowingly something happens, we apologise for that. It should have been avoided. It’s a mistake, he (Madhav) agrees, he apologised. He withdrew his statement,” Naik said when asked to comment on Madhav’s controversial tweets on Sunday.
            Reply
            1. S
              Seshubabu Kilambi
              Jul 11, 2017 at 7:40 pm
              Important break is rise of fundamentalism
              Reply
              1. S
                sree
                Jul 11, 2017 at 4:01 pm
                One of the Best Foreign meeting Modi had was with Priyanka chopra which has contributed a lot to our country GO MODI GO and his Slaves like Ram Amit and other Bhakts
                Reply
                1. M
                  Mohan
                  Jul 11, 2017 at 6:20 pm
                  The days of Muslim vote bank appea t are over. All Indians will have equal treatment from the GOI Just Google and read about the IMDT Act 1983 which was enacted during Congress woman Indira's time to enable illegals to sneak into India through Assam and remain there and held illegal by the Supreme Court of India in July 2005
                  Reply
                2. R
                  rishi
                  Jul 11, 2017 at 3:49 pm
                  I read the article with interest ...... it is a brilliant piece of research and purpose in its content .Mr. Ram Madhav must be credited for this very constructive contribution. As a reader I must acknowledge that I am strengthened in my belief that our PM Modi is one of the most rational and pragmatic statesmen the world has seen in recent times......and I can substantiate my belief with the way the world is increasingly turning towards our leadership not only on all global matters but also on their own country-specific issues.....and this leadership truly manifests the RSS-BJP Combine's well earned wisdom and experience through the lifetime struggles of most of its top stalwarts .....nothing came to RSS-BJP on a platter as it refused to sell itself to the whims of either the outgoing colonial power in 1947 or to the incumbent colonial-proxy that congress subsequently proved itself to be the next few decades ....till Modi came and busted them all in one shot !
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    angel
                    Jul 11, 2017 at 4:14 pm
                    A short take on the Prime Minister Achievement as Business Development Manager for Ambani and Adani 1. Reliance Signs Pact with Russian Arms Firm as Modi visits Russia 2.RelianceDefence Signs $ 6 Bn With Russian Arms Firm 3Anil Ambani Ties up with Dassault 4. Adani Australia Coal Mine project gets approval . Indian Banks give Approval 5NTPC ADANI Petronet sign Pacts with Bangladesh 5Reliance Defence signs warship repair pact with US navy 6 Adani $ Israel Elbit form V for unmanned Ariel vehicles This is payback for the BJP funding the elections . What had Modi brought back for the common man, Farmers PAYBACK TIME WHAT SAY. WHAT RATIONAL WHAT PRAGMATIC LEADERSHIP WHAT GAIN TO PEOPLE ONLY AMBANI ADANI
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                    1. M
                      Mohan
                      Jul 11, 2017 at 6:26 pm
                      When Indian companies win orders -- they create jobs in India -- don't you know that dumbo ? And additional taxes/revenue to the Government ! Further if after 70 years of independence during which time more then 50 years were direct CONgi rule and another 10 years through Governments propped up by them -- the Indian farmer is unable to withstand a single crop failure -- who is to blame dumbo ? The Congies or Modi ? And for your information out of every 100 suicides in India --farmers account for 12 only And out of that 12 only 17 are ON ACCOUNT OF CROP FAILURE So only 2 out of every 100 suicides in India are because of crop failure So dumbo what is the big deal talking about farmers on this page
                      1. T
                        THATHAMAN
                        Jul 11, 2017 at 11:07 pm
                        MODI IS ACHATUR BANIA( ).HE IS DISASTROUS TO INDIAN DEMOCROCY AND ENEMY OF HUMANITY WHO BUTCHERED 3000 INDIAN POOR MUSLIMS IN 2002 in GUJTARTH. GOD WILL SEND HIM TO HELL
                        1. R
                          rishi
                          Jul 12, 2017 at 11:58 pm
                          a very silly response by angel...a run-of-the-mill modi-hater !
                        2. S
                          sk
                          Jul 11, 2017 at 5:28 pm
                          You are a free soul son, don't make same mistake again. Earlier, any opinion critical to policies of congress was fated to labeled as communal or divisive. They denied a minimum just space for criticism. The left intellectuals in media and other ins utions were also part of it in the name of democracy and secularism. You are also becoming a part of that same mechanism when you b some one bhakt or slave. The majority of our nation don't like this and has answered effectively in very democratic way. Accepting, making corrections will certainly help in reviving congress and making democracy more strong in India.
                          Reply
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